Previous Next

Map : author

What sets the U.S apart from the rest of the world?

The U.S. is one of only three nations in the world (the other two being Liberia and Burma) which clings to its outmoded system of measurement, failing to get on board with the rest of the world and use the metric system.

We don’t even use the British Imperial system (that the British don’t even use anymore) – we use some bastard child of the Imperial system called “the United States customary system.” Ask any American how many ounces are in a gallon or feet are in a mile and you’re almost sure not to get a correct answer.

What does this mean for you as an American? It means that when you travel you look like an idiot. When someone asks you for directions, you are suddenly at a loss, unable to estimate distance in kilometers. If one of your South American friends asks you how cold it is, you have no idea what to say. Is 30 degrees hot? Is it cold?

There are more communist countries than there are countries not using the metric system. Everyone else has come to the conclusion that it just makes for sense to use the system everyone else in the world is using in which all units are divisible by ten.

Just try to pass the right wrench to someone and you’ll see how stupid this system is. “I need the five sixteenths hex wrench. No! I said the five sixteenths!” Of course you did.

OK. Maybe it wouldn’t be cost effective to tear down all those mile markers, but just imagine the jobs it would create to start adding kilometer markers to every highway in the U.S. of A.

Culture + Religion

 

About The Author

Kate Sedgwick

Editor-at-large, Kate Sedgwick, works from Buenos Aires where she organizes her live storytelling project, Second Story Buenos Aires. Read more about her than you might want to know at her blog YesThereIsSuchAThingAsAStupidQuestion.com, and follow her infrequent tweets @KateSedgwick.

  • http://evaholland.com Eva

    What I always found craziest about it is, all the American scientists and such have to go ahead and learn to use metric anyway. Because, uh, science doesn’t work with imperial. Seems like a pretty good argument for one system being “correct” to me…

  • http://matadortrips.com/ Hal Amen

    We wouldn’t even have to switch over %100. I mean, the Brits still drive in mph.

  • http://worldtravelergr.blogspot.com mpiftex

    This article is right on point! As a European who now lives in US I always get frustrated by the lack of sense in the measurement system. As it was pointed in the article, I was asking my american friends, how many feet in a mile and they had no idea (1 mile = 5280 feet by the way, how makes sense, right?)! How are you supposed to calculate distances? What does 0.3 miles mean?

    And what about temperature? 32 degrees is freezing point. Yeah, that’s way more logical that say 0 degrees! Anything below that is freezing, above is ok!

    I get frustrated just by thinking about it! Great article!

  • http://www.wanderingdona.com Dona

    No way, really? I thought for sure there were more than just 3 countries not using the metric system….wow, I love this map. Us silly Americans.

  • http://amanofnonation.blogspot.com/ Kevin Post

    In mountaineering, rock-climbing, the sciences, as well as certain aspects of the U.S. military all use the metric system. Before traveling abroad I quickly memorized the metric system and the Celsius temperature scale.

    But Fox News would call us communists for suggesting that we make the switch.

  • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

    I agree. Let’s get with the program!

  • http://www.natashayoung.wordpress.com Natasha

    We Brits are just as silly but more mixed up. I know how tall I am in feet and inches, I know how heavy I am in stones and how far 50 miles is. I more or less understand kilometres but have no idea how tall I am in metres. I buy apples in pounds but rice in kilos. I know how high La Paz is in metres but normally use feet and don’t know how to convert them. I know what the temperature was when I was in Death Valley in farenheit but use centigrade.

    It’s a confusing world out there..

    …And I never dare hire a car for fear of forgetting which side of the road to drive on.

  • http://notfernsblog.wordpress.com Fern

    Agreed that us Brits are just as bad. We still use miles on our roads and height is usually measured in feet and inches. Weight I’d say is beginning to move more metric (certainly in terms of small weights, for parcels and cooking and the like) but body weight is still often done in stone. That last one is a complete point of confusion – sometimes it’s done in stone, sometimes in kg, but since the internet is so full of Americans using lb, I have absolutely no point of reference and endlessly convert between all three!

  • joshua johnson

    WHATEVER!
    Everyone here in America (Liberia, Burma) knows that there are (at least) 128 oz in a mile, and 5280 feet in a gallon!
    so…just lay off… our system is clearly the best or it wouldn’t be our system…!

    Cowboy up?

  • Dan

    The city of Duarte, CA near Pasadena has road signs posted in Kilometers & Miles.

  • http://www.roamingtales.com Caitlin @ Roaming Tales

    Australia switched over to metric before I was born and they were serious about it – an engineer could get professionally disbarred if caught using a foot ruler. I started school in 1980 and didn’t spent a single day of my schooling learning about the imperial system. I can estimate my height in feet and inches but I have no idea how much I weigh in pounds.

    But I disagree that Britain has abandoned the imperial system. What they’ve done is introduce metric in a really half hearted and annoying way and not follow through. People will talk about how many miles they get to the litre of petrol (gas). You buy a carton of milk that is two pints but it will say 1.2435352 litres (not an exact figure!) – why not just change the carton size so it’s a litre? Recipes will give quantities in both pounds and grams. I think it’s the worst of both worlds personally.

    I had a Brit tell me once that they didn’t know what 10% of 70kg was because they didn’t understand metric. They actually went to look it up on a chart! To be fair, you have to look up percentages of stone and pounds (but not of pounds alone). But if you know what 10% of 70 is then you should know what 10% of 70kg is.

    I agree with you about confusion with imperial / American customary even with people who grew up with it. Apparently a lot of Americans think a ton is 1,000 pounds but it’s actually 2,000.

  • James

    > Maybe it wouldn’t be cost effective to tear down all those mile markers, but just imagine the jobs it would create to start adding kilometer markers to every highway in the U.S. of A.

    You need to learn about the broken window fallacy. Here is a link where you can do so: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window. It’s probably important to understand that Keynesian economists are wrong before reading this article.

  • http://cadsystemshelp.blogspot.com/ Na-Na-Natalie

    Why can’t we all just agree on one? Then NASA won’t have 125 million dollar screw ups!

  • Helmut

    ‘Just try to pass the right wrench to someone and you’ll see how stupid this system is. “I need the five sixteenths hex wrench. No! I said the five sixteenths!” Of course you did.’

    If I ask someone for a five-sixteenths wrench and I don’t get a wrench with 5/16 stamped onto it, I’m dealing with an idiot. This has nothing to do with the metric system.

  • http://travelerahoy.wordpress.com al

    I never have much of a problem converting miles to km or that sort of thing. What always confuses me when I visit the US is temperature conversion. When I went down to Seattle I remember reading the little weather graph in the paper and it said 68F and there was a sun. And I thought, is that cold? Or warm? Should I wear a coat? Of course now I’m sure there’s an app for that (as the saying goes).

    My parents learned the imperial system, so they still use that. But by the time I was in school Canada was using the metric system (although I gotta admit I use feet and pounds a bit too). Anyways I think it’s a lot easier to learn metric, increments are always in tens. Like 10 millimetres is a centimetre, 100 centimetres is a meter, a 1000 metres is a kilometre. Ironically even though it’s simpler I still had trouble with math in school.

  • liam

    In Ireland the switch was made slowly over about 10 years up to about 2004. The last thing replaced were the speed boards (mph –> kph): the ’100′ boards now read ’120′ – zoom!!
    Having lived in Ireland, USA and now Europe, can I now consider myself multilingual and multi-dimensional ?

    And what’s the next step: 100 second minute? 10 minute hour? a 10 day week, 10 month year ?

  • jdavis1001

    When did Antarctica become a country?

  • john

    The comment about Americans not knowing how many feet are in a mile or ounces in a gallon sounds more like ant-U.S. propaganda than actual fact. I live in the U.S. and personally do not know *anyone* that doesn’t know the correct answers to those questions.

    We have been taught the metric system in school since at least the 70s. When I was in grade school in the 80s we were told that we were learning the metric system because the U.S. would be using it “in the future”.

    We use the metric system exclusively in any form of science class. If an American does not know the metric system and cannot convert miles to km or pounds to kg, it was not because they were not taught. They are either stupid or paid no attention in school.

    The government may not want to switch to the metric system, but that doesn’t mean the people don’t know or understand it. Obviously, the average person will know the system they use all the time better, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know any other system.

    Should the U.S. use the metric system? Yes. Do Americans understand their own imperial/custom system? Yes. Do Americans understand the metric system? Yes. The exceptions to the last two questions are the lazy, ignorant, or stupid. It’s only if you believe anti-U.S. propaganda that the entire U.S. falls into those categories.

  • Alex

    You’d better slap a year on that communist map. It’s slightly outdated. For about 20 years.

  • Michael

    Us Brits use: -

    - miles to drive,
    - pounds, ounces, grams and kilograms, mililitres and litres, pints and cups (god knows how much a cup is supposed to be!) to cook and shop with,
    - feet and inches for people’s hight,
    - stone and pounds for weighing people,

    However, when looking at construction we use centimetres and metres.

    I think they tried to introduce it slowly so that poeple could get used to it. But they would have been better off introducing it as a do this now like they did for decimalisation of currency.

    I learnt (or they tried to teach me) both in school, but it never stuck in! I used a mixture of the two and would have no idea if someone asked me to measure something in the other way!

  • Will

    Good to see Antarctica is on board with the metric system.

    As someone pointed out; goes with your Communist map. Russia, huh?

    Shouldn’t be preaching to people when your own idiocy is hanging out right there.

  • Kurt V.

    Imagine changing all of the mile markers on our highways to kilometer markers. That won’t be fun.

  • Seabear70

    And?

  • CB

    why destroy the imperial system. its like measicide. i kinda like being different.

  • Goon

    Having lived in both Europe and the United States, I don’t really care. A yard is about a meter anyway. If you’re too stupid to work with a conversion based on that, then it doesn’t really matter anyway.

    The Celsius is logical if you’re always at sea level, but it becomes as abstracted as Fahrenheit if you’re at a different altitude.

    The only thing I’d really miss about the imperial system is the foot. It’s a good, solid measurement standard that there’s no real equivalent for in metrics. A decimeter is too small and it’s cumbersome to say, “about 2/3rds of a meter” instead of “two feet.”

    • Herpy McDerp

      Then say “30 cm”.

  • Tyler

    I remember they tried converting in the 80′s also and it just died.

    Too much of our infrastructure is based on the imperial system to ever make a full switch. What a nightmare it would be. Imagine trying to find a metric pipe to fit your 1inch waterline coming out of your house. Every pipe would have to be replace. The entire western U.S. would have to be resurveyed to get away from township/range system. Would they just stop making 5/16th inch bolts? Have to tear down entire bridges when a few bolts wear out? It would never work, at best we would end up like the British, stuck between the two systems.

  • Red blooded amerucan

    The rest of the world needs to get in line with US. Changing all those km signs would create waaay more jobs and stimulate the global economy. Especially if you let private companies handle it, not socialist govts. In fact, just step back and let us run the darned show. It would be easier and we’ll be doing it anyway after we get tired of Chinese economic imperialism and kick them into the stone age in about a decade or two. Oh, who am I kidding, then we’ll just build them right back up, like we did after we rescued them from the Japanese in WWII, or Europe after we rescued it in WWI AND WWII, or like we did after the tsunami hit, or after the Haitian earthquake, ad infinitum. And thanks world, for being there for us after Katrina. Long live the foot of the king (yes, the 12 inches of British pedic royalty that gave us the foot)

  • Patrick

    Lot of self-loathing Americans making comments on this site.

    I’ll tell you what – I’ll switch to metric when you switch to decimal time (10 hours a day, 100 minutes an hour, 10 days per week).

  • Rob

    Since when is Antarctica a country? And when did the Antarctic government decide to use the metric system.

    The simple truth is that this article abuses the facts rather seriously. First, a number of the “metric” countries actually use a hybrid system. Secondly, people have been using “appropriate” units forever. At work, for example, we use metric for some measurements and US Imperial for others (it’s never been an issue).

    The costs of converting what is already one of the most economically successful systems to fully metric is unmeasurable, but it’s huge. And, as one who has lived and worked in both types of countries, there is no significant benifit to converting.

    Just my 2-cents.

  • echo

    “…Because, uh, science doesn’t work with imperial”

    I’ve no dog in the metric-vs-non-metric system fight, I understand both and convert freely – but this is the stupidest point made yet. Science doesn’t work with imperial? Really? Science works no matter how you measure the stuff. Perhaps he meant to say scientists don’t use imperial. Which is a valid but irrelevant point. Who cares what’s used in a lab? Honestly as long as the person I’m trying to communicate with understands what I’m trying to say, we’re good.

    This just in, the world uses a bunch of different languages. Yet I don’t see a movement to convert us all over to English (or Arabic, or Chinese, etc.) Much ado about nothing.

  • AC

    Um, off the top of my head I think there are 128 oz/gallon, and 5280 feet in a mile? The real advantage is that you can cut the current measurement in half and have a usable unit. For example – inch; half-inch; quarter inch; 1/8 inch; 1/16 inch; 1/32 inch; 1/64 inch; etc. – it’s much easier to work with. Metric units don’t handle this well – centimeter/10mm; 5mm; 2.5mm; 1.25mm; 0.625mm; 0.3125mm; etc.. – additionally, the definition of meter seems to be overly subjective: a 10mm wrench from one country is not necessarily going to fit a 10mm bolt from another country very well – though this may just be universally poor quality control.

  • bill

    Haha on the pipes. In fact metric pipes *are* the same as customary–they are simply renamed. 4″ ips = DN 100 etc. It ain’t 4″ amyway.

  • bill

    Regarding the “bastard child of the British Imperial System” you show off your ignorance in the matter.

    Customary measures can be quirky (though the non-base 10 makes it *easier* to do a wider range of exact divisions and and in the head conversions–if you learn it. Need to divide a dozen in three equal parts–easy. Or 4, or 6, or 2. Divide 10 into anything other than 1 or 5, ain’t possible. There are *good* reasons for the quirkiness of customary measure–they came to be before calculators and back when dividing things like eggs between folks was part of trade.)

    But there is a wholly *consistent* set of units in the US for scientific and engineering use–and it is no worse or difficult than SI in actual practice. In fact it looks and acts a lot like metric. Slug X acceleration of gravity = lb; kg X acceleration of gravity = Newton. 1 psi = 1 pound per square inch. 1 ksi = 1000 lb per square inch. Sounds a lot like 1 Newton per square meter (oh, renamed Pascal so that you don’t know what the hell it really is) and 1kiloNewton per square meter. 1000 lbs = 1 kip. 1000 Newtons = 1 kiloNewton. If you can’t handle tons (long and short) when they show up, you should just go home and become an art history major or something. Ok, so hp = 550 ft-lb.sec, but so what. Deal with it.

    By the way, one long ton (2240 lb) is almost the same as one metric ton (2204 lb) which is why 1 megagram is called a metric ton (or tonne) —because everybody knew what the hell a long ton was, and it was lucky and *very* convenient that the megagram was essentially the same!

    lbf, slug, second, foot, and on and on can be used just as seamlessly as Newton, kilogram, second, meter.

    Furthermore there is more than one metric system (and much of their development was spearheaded here in the US). We have SI, which is basically MKS (meter kilogram second) and then we have cgs (centimeter gram second. And in fact there are odd metric units, such as dynes, which appear in metric stuff…

    The meter is the only official measure of length recognized by a certain act of the U.S. Congress, in I believe 1803 or something. The foot is referenced to the meter as exactly 0.3048 meter. That’s where the exact 2.54 cm = 1 inch comes from. We’ve been metric here a long time.

    During WWII our soldiers overran factories in Germany which used a lot of American machine tools and gages–made by various firms–all in metric. The metric thread class system used by ISO was actually developed to a large extent by the American standards organizations (ASTM or ANSI, I think the precursor to the latter in this case).

    Electricity has always been “metric,” and other than the nice fit between Joules and Watts, you can just as easily move back and forth between electrical and ft-lb-sec or inch-lb-sec as to SI anyway.

    The U.S. has been actively engaged in “metric” measurement since the beginning. We choose to continue to use customary units because they don’t hurt a thing, and why waste money on trivialities? Units are *arbitrary* in any sense.

    So it ain’t all perfect and tidy. And engineers make it work. That’s why we’re engineers.:-)

  • Terry

    Not a totally fair article. The US still uses non-metric units but like many countries, we have a dual system. For instance, our cars have been manufactured metric for many years. Everything scientific is metric. Both systems are taught in schools. Temperatures are often given using both systems.And we’re not alone. I was Guatemala and the gasoline is still sold in gallons. The UK is the same way but they’re listed on the map as metric.

  • redly1

    wow, germany is still divided. Thank you 20 yr old map link!

  • chuck_tempe

    i am american. we don’t have to change to metric. look at what the euro did to you guys. it is good to have different currencies for different countries. not being equal is what makes the world go around.

    funny how the U.N. is here in the UNITED STATES and how the U.S. military is asked to be the police for other countries when things go wrong.

    we CAN be different. you stay over there and i will stay here.

  • Adam

    I think the difference between America and the rest of the world is that everyone else has learned to convert or work with imperial measurements. I know my height in metres, centremetres, feet, inches, etc. The aviation industry, because it was primarily driven by the USA, is mostly in imperial but with some metric thrown in by other countries.

    You can use imperial measurements in some scientific calculations as long as every term is also imperial – eg foot-pounds instead of newton-metres, miles per hour instead of kilometres per hour, pounds per square inch instead of bar, etc.

    PS I believe a metric tonne is closer to 2,200 pounds :)

  • Pingback: Metrik: USA, Burma und Liberien ‹ dreitehabee

  • Toymao

    Actually, the European piping is also measured in inches, so at least in mechanics, the inch is still used, as its not imperial unit, but a common old non-metric measurement. So if you switch, you don’t have to change your pipes, there are no pipes here in Europe (or at least Hungary, where I live) with metricly measured width, but 1/4, 1/2 and 1 inch pipes. :)

  • HeadZo

    I like how they have Antarctica listed in green as a “country” that uses the metric system. Even those crazy Antarcticans are further ahead of the times than us.

  • David

    Good to see those 3 Antarctisians finally came to a consensus.

  • bill

    Regarding the “bastard child of the British Imperial System” :

    Customary measures can be quirky (though the non-base 10 makes it *easier* to do a wider range of exact divisions and and in the head conversions–if you learn it. Need to divide a dozen in three equal parts–easy. Or 4, or 6, or 2. Divide 10 into anything other than 1 or 5, ain’t possible. There are *good* reasons for the quirkiness of customary measure–they came to be before calculators and back when dividing things like eggs between folks was part of trade.)

    But there is a wholly *consistent* set of units in the US for scientific and engineering use–and it is no worse or difficult than SI in actual practice. In fact it looks and acts a lot like metric. Slug X acceleration of gravity = lb; kg X acceleration of gravity = Newton. 1 psi = 1 pound per square inch. 1 ksi = 1000 lb per square inch. Sounds a lot like 1 Newton per square meter (oh, renamed Pascal so that you don’t know what the hell it really is) and 1kiloNewton per square meter. 1000 lbs = 1 kip. 1000 Newtons = 1 kiloNewton. If you can’t handle tons (long and short) when they show up, you won’t be able to handle any of the odd constants in the SI system either (Boltzmann’s, Permittivity of free space etc).. Ok, so hp = 550 ft-lb.sec, but so what. Deal with it.

    By the way, one long ton (2240 lb) is almost the same as one metric ton (2204 lb) which is why 1 megagram is called a metric ton (or tonne) —because everybody knew what the hell a long ton was, and it was lucky and *very* convenient that the megagram was essentially the same!

    lbf, slug, second, foot, and on and on can be used just as seamlessly as Newton, kilogram, second, meter.

    Furthermore there is more than one metric system (and much of their development was spearheaded here in the US). We have SI, which is basically MKS (meter kilogram second) and then we have cgs (centimeter gram second. And in fact there are odd metric units, such as dynes (part of cgs but not MKS), which appear in metric stuff…

    The meter is the only official measure of length recognized by a certain act of the U.S. Congress, in I believe 1803 or something. The foot is referenced to the meter as exactly 0.3048 meter. That’s where the exact 2.54 cm = 1 inch comes from. We’ve been metric here a long time.

    During WWII our soldiers overran factories in Germany which used a lot of American machine tools and gages–made by various firms–all in metric. The metric thread class system used by ISO was actually developed to a large extent by the American standards organizations (ASTM or ANSI, I think the precursor to the latter in this case).

    Electricity has always been “metric,” and other than the nice fit between Joules and Watts, you can just as easily move back and forth between electrical and ft-lb-sec or inch-lb-sec as to SI anyway.

    The U.S. has been actively engaged in “metric” measurement since the beginning. We choose to continue to use customary units because they don’t hurt a thing, and why waste money on trivialities? Units are *arbitrary* in any sense.

    So it ain’t all perfect and tidy. And engineers make it work. That’s why we’re engineers.:-)

  • Kevin

    Antarctica: The permanent human population would be McMurdo Station.

    They’ll be dealing in pounds of fuel, millimeters of wavelength, and days of survivability.

    I’ll bet they don’t give a good goddamn which system they’re using.

  • http://garyjones.co.uk Gary

    “The real advantage is that you can cut the current measurement in half and have a usable unit. For example – inch; half-inch; quarter inch; 1/8 inch; 1/16 inch; 1/32 inch; 1/64 inch; etc. – it’s much easier to work with. Metric units don’t handle this well – centimeter/10mm; 5mm; 2.5mm; 1.25mm; 0.625mm; 0.3125mm; etc.”

    AC, you’re confusing metric vs imperial as fractions vs decimal. There’s nothing in herently wrong about using half cm, quarter cm, 1/8 cm, 1/16 cm, 1/32 cm, 1/64 cm etc, or the converse 0.5″, 0.25″, 0.125″ etc. They are all parts of a unit.

    The real advantage of metric measurements, is that there’s usually a smaller unit of measurement if you’re not keen on decimals or fractions – e.g. 0.3125mm = 312.5micrometres = 312500nm – and most importantly, conversion is easy, usually by a factor of 1000.

    Although inches have smaller measurements, could you tell me how many lines, picas, points, thou, barleycorns and poppy seeds (seriously!) are defined in an inch?

    I’m from the UK, and I agree with all of the comments about the British system mentioned above. Although we do have metric values on certain items like milk, this is only due to the EU requirements, as opposed to what our own government has said we should do.

  • seanyboy

    Another thing Brits do is use farenheit for those days when it’s hot outside and celcius for cold days and everything else.

  • Sean

    You think the UK uses metric? The UK just uses a different sort of imperial from the US for some things and metric where it’s enforced by the EU.

    • Dominion_Lad

      No, Sean – Britain and the Empire converted to Imperial in 1824.  The US uses the old sytem, also known as the Queen Ann measure, which was adopted in 1706, before the American Revolution.

      So, it’s not “a different sort of imperial”.  It’s now unique to the US.  Their gallon is 128 oz, while in Britain, Canada, Australia, etc, it’s 160 oz.

  • Graeme

    The only way to change is to do it fully. As a Brit, I can tell you that changing half and half makes thing complicated. I still use miles, feet, inches and lbs It makes knowing how far a KM is if you still think in miles.

  • http://mark.atwood.name/ Mark Atwood

    Something I like to point out to people is that the US was the second country in the world to go metric, after France invented it.

    All goods sold in the US are required to be marked in metric units.

    All military, construction, and custom goods contracts sold to the US government are required to be designed and blueprinted in metric units.

    The “customary system” is legally defined in terms of metric units. The US system isn’t a “bastard child of the Imperial system”. Quite the opposite: the Brits kept changing their units of measurement, while the US ones stayed fixed. Which one is the “bastard”.

    What you are complaining about is that in the US we have not *forced* people and manufacturers to stop using customary units. What do you suggest? Make customary unit rulers and tools illegal to own? Fine weather reporters for saying temperature in Farenheight. Fine manufacturers and stores for stocking stuff in round units of oz and feet?

    Such laws would have a hard time standing up when challenged in court.

  • Alfred

    You might want to change the link to the communist countries to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Communist_States.svg It’s a little more up to date.

  • Pingback: Metric Map: Which Countries Don’t Belong With The Others? « My Monochrome Life

  • blablabla

    USSR still exists on your map of communists. That map shows the state of the world in 1990 or so.

    Author, learn geography and history first. Metric system is the best, by the way.

  • Kallen

    Americans allow themselves to be ignorant and incompatible. Instead of Americans joining together for protests or rallies to demand what they want, they prefer to sit at home and scream at the TV.

  • Pedro

    Joshua Johnson, please note that in Liberia and Burma they don’t use the American system. Before metric each country had their own system.

  • Pingback: Metric System: US, Burma, Liberia VS the Rest of the World at RYN SHANE-ARMSTRONG: FOUND MEDIA

  • http://www.baconismagic.ca Ayngelina

    Whaa, that’s crazy. As a commonwealth country Canada has been on Metric since before I was born in 1977. The only odd thing is that we still use pounds when referring to how much we weigh? Maybe to make ourselves feel better about weighing less than our neighbours to the South.

  • divide

    Um… have you actually looked at the communist map you link to? Like, the one which shows among others East Germany, Poland, and (you can’t miss that one) the Soviet Union?

  • Rich

    The UK still uses the Imperial system too, for some day-to-day things:

    Distance (road signs are in miles/yards but the roads people measure them in kms!)
    Weight (shops have to sell in kg/grammes etc but people still think in lbs)

    The Irish Republic moved from miles to kms a few years ago – hopefully the UK will do the same one day, but they won’t because the majority of people will think it’s some trick to get them to join the EU…

  • Will

    Switching to the metric system is far more of a problem than the Standard system.

    Let’s look at it: If it’s not instantaneous, it will cause problems in the transition. Besides that it will need to be instantaneous thought change too. You cannot change the thought process of so many million people. But I digress…

    Government passes a bill requiring this change in measurement. Now let’s assume that manufacturers, publishers, or anyone who mass produces products will make the switch. Now we have metric products out there; for example, cook books, operating manuals, small engines, construction hardware, etc. What happens when the consumers of these cook books, and so on, only have Standard tools? There are roughly 240mL in a cup. A cup has 8oz, 8 x 29.57 (that is if the person knows the conversion). Or small engines that are now metric, but once required a Standard socket set? Operating manuals for the same reason. Construction of buildings in Standard system are being repaired or getting add-ons that are now in metric. As mentioned before, roadsigns and maps will all need to be changed. Odometers will be in either metric, or Standard, but drivers might need to know information in the other measurement.

    Sure these are little problems, but there will be millions upon millions of little problems.

    So why bother when it is infinitely easier to keep the Standard system? And who cares anyway? What really bothers me is the way this article is written. Let’s paint these countries in a bad light because they still use the Standard system. I’m pretty sure that’s not slowing any country down.

    And whoever doesn’t know the Standard measurements, in their respective countries, needs to go back to school.

    • Herpy McDerp

      But… in my country the metric system IS the santard measurement system.

  • Pingback: Domingueiras « Batata Transgênica

  • http://www.SpeakingLatino.com Jared Romey

    Puerto Rico has confused things even further….everyone here uses miles, and has no idea how far a kilometer is, but all highway distance markers are in kilometers!!!

  • Mary

    Switching products and tools to the metric system shouldn’t be that big of an issue. Most tools have both systems on them already, including measuring cups, measuring tape, odometers, and maps. A gradual transition could be painless.

  • Eliud Rodriguez

    Puerto Rico, as a US territory, has to use the system the US tell them to do, but also has influenced from other latinamerican countries and also used the metric system. But this issue is not limited to distances, it also influenced in speed limits (mph vs kmph), weights (lbs vs kg), heights (ft-in vs m), temperature (C vs F), land area (sqm vs sqft) and volume (g vs l) among others. As some local politicians say, “We have the best of both worlds” but personally not too proud..

  • Kit

    The author makes a blanket statment that the US clings to an outmoded system of measurement. Outmoded by who? By the measurement police? Or maybe it’s because the author is unfamiliar with feet, miles, and degrees fahrenheit? Maybe it’s the author that really is the idiot here, when she travels to the US?

    When I travel to another country, I don’t expect them to be using my familiar ways to measure things. I make sure I understand what their ways using kilometers and celcius. That’s just the way it is. Why should I make another country bend to my way of thinking? Just because the US and a few other countries use the imperial system, why should they change? Because majority rules? Or is it a small minority that is uncomfortable with something different and want to force their way of things on others?

    I think the quote “she takes what she wants and leaves the rest” in the author’s profile kind of explains a lot about her attitude towards others.

    • Carl Armbruster

      Quick . . . how many feet in 27.5 miles? No calculator allowed . . . I’m waiting . . . 

      Now . . . how many meters in 27.5 kilometers? 27,500 – duh, that was easy . . . 

      Metric is better because it is simpler and faster. It is not better because everyone else uses it – everyone else uses it because it is better. The US has too many stupid, lazy people to convert. I work as a software engineer – we already use metric. Metric is all we EVER used in my high school and college classes (25 years ago). The smart people in the US already converted. We are just waiting for the stupid people to catch up.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/alainaob Alaina O’Brien

    This is continually a source of frustration for me! Especially when it comes to the weather…

    • Jay Bee

      I HATE the metric system and always will….Everybody I see at the stores order their meat etc in POUNDS. When somebody ask how much do you weigh ? it’s always in pounds.. Every young person I hear & see is using the imperial system. The USA was smart not to spend millions if not billions of dollars to convery to this metric system for no reason at all.
      Guess Canada thought USA would follow with their stupit change over but no dice, and furthermore, who is Canada’s number one trading partner – yep, US of A….

      • Alex

        Instead of spending millions to go metric once USA now spends billions every year to convert metric to imperial whenever they import anything and back when they export. Smart move.

      • Ozhak

        That is why ignorance has great consequence! First, a trade deficit, now, a potential default!

        I wonder when you pals will ever learn!

      • Carl Armbruster

        Everyone orders meat in pounds? That is your logic? We use the imperial system so, duh, they order in pounds.  I see everyone picking their nose so by your logic, picking your nose is a good thing. It is a shame too many Americans are too stupid to learn how to multiply and divide by 10 – geez

  • Pingback: » Diffusion in Networks: Metric vs. Imperial » Cornell Info 2040 - Networks

  • Jake B

    Uhhh…Canada was able to do it just fine, as was the rest of the world. I think it’s just plain laziness and arrogant ignorance. Remember, the USA is also guilty of never even giving itself a NAME. The “United States of America” is the equivalent of the “Confederate Provinces of America” , which is what Canada would be if people had been too lazy to name it.

  • Pingback: Professor Blue » Blog Archive » Metric vs non-metric

  • james

    Imperial systems forever!!! metric is sucks!! I am canadian… metric law in canada was 1983 however, most canadians agaiasnt metric!! metric is sucks!! we want imperial systems back in canada NOW!!!
    metric is discrimmation to all english canadians…; we are NOT europeans! we are AMERICANS SO CANDIANS! IMPERIAL SYSTEMS FOREVER AND EVER!

    • Christie

      I am glad you feel qualified to speak for all of us Canadians. I started school in 1980 and so have learned the metric system since grade 1. However, I am also fluent in imperial measurement due to my father and grandparents clinging to it. Knowing how many inches were in a foot, etc, made life easier. My husband was in Jr high before metric was implemented, so he too is quite fluent in either system. While I do order larger quantities in pounds, smaller ones I order in grams. The metric system is much simpler to figure out and overall makes more sense. I highly doubt my children will even understand ounces, pensor the mindbending Fahrenheit system unless they decide to study it on a lark. Please do not assume that just because you want the imperial system to rule the day that we all do.

  • Pingback: Astronomy - Page 43 - Fires of Heaven Guild Message Board

  • Barbara Emert

    Metric is so much easier. everything is muliplied or divided by a 10. I know students in high school who can’t remember 12 inches in a foot, 3 feet in a yard etc.. Back during the Civil War there was a push to go metric. Back in the 1960′s as a student we were told that that in 10 years we would be metric. Metric is so much easier. It’s converting back an forth to standard that is hard. Americans are generally stubborn and think everyone else should do what we do. We are not an isolated country, haven’t been for a long time. We need to come up to the plate and get moving in our conversion and something more that just a 2 leter bottle of soda. as far as highway signs as the old ones need to get replaced then put up ones with both meausrements on it maybe by the time those neet to get replaced then we could go just metric.

  • Pingback: Universal Healthcare Works (just not in America) | TiTy

  • Badboy

    Did Lberia and Burma convert to the Metric System yet? In a couple of articles I read it has been stated that Burma was the last country to convert to the Metric System. It s 2012 now! Did they convert yet?

  • Cypress AsianGuy

    Switching to metric isn’t that HARD at all.  The key is to switch one unit at a time.  When the population is familiar with one unit, start with the next.  I think switching from mile to metre should be the last while switching from F to C is the easiest and should be done first.  Very few people depends on knowing the temperature to function in life while misjudging the distance can be detrimental.

    To switch from F to C, one only needs to be familiar with 5 constants (3, really)  and you will feel right at home with the metric system:  Basically, 0C is when ice starts to form on the road, 100C is when water boils in the kitchen.  20C is a comfortable room temperature.  5 below 20 (15C) is when it starts to feel cold and 5 above 20 (25C) is when it starts to feel hot.  If you want to go nuts, then remember that 10 below 15 (5C) is when it starts to feel VERY cold and 10 above 25 (35C) is when it starts to feel VERY hot.

    The same thing with switching from mile to metre.  Just remember some basic constants.  For example, 100km would be an hour drive on the freeway.  50km would be an hour drive on surface road.  For a person, 2m tall would be pretty tall  and 1.5 m tall would be pretty short.   An ideal guy would be around 1.8m tall and 100 kg heavy.

    Don’t get all crazy with complicated converting formulas and scared yourself off.  Just learn some basic daily constants in metrics and you’ll be right at home.  Let the eggheads worry about the complicated stuff.

  • richbatra

    Dumbass, I like the imperial system and they still largely use it in England too.

    • PhilipII

      Depends on your age. New generations will use the international system. Every 50-year-old in Britain has been taught in the metric system in Britain, whether they understand it or not. Just ask how many ounces in a pounds, fluid ounces in a gallon etc… a high percentage of people will not have a clue! Now because the UK government is dragging its feet on completing the transition you have people understanding neither system or worse mixing them!

      • richbatra

        Both the US and UK  will both always use the imperial system and i am proud of that!

        • Felipe Robles Perales

          Are you obtuse? Here in England people DO ask for 100 grammes of X and a kilo of Z and buy litres of petrol and at present the temperature is a scorching 28º!

    • PhilipII

      I deduce from your comment that you are inarticulate and uncultivated, plus perhaps American. The imperial system is not the same as the U.S. system even though the names may be the same.  Origins of imperial measures: “mile” from “mille passum”, ”oz” and “lb” from “onza” and “libra” (though these are no longer used in Britain) in Latin i.e. Roman i.e. Italia; “pint” from French “la pinte”, “gallon” from French as well so how British are these units? Not very. They are simply the old European system pre-S.I.

      • richbatra

        I am American and prud to be so.  I am very familiar with the fact that the US Customary measurement system is slightly different from British imperial measurements.  I Know where oz and lb come from.  Oz., and lbs. are very much still used in the UK.  I have family in London and the actual preference of most people there is not to use the metric system, and good for them!  The US, for example, will always stick with our current system, and i suspect the UK (which still has signs posted As MPH, Feet, yards, etc)., will as well.  Even in countries where they have forced conversion upon their people, many still informally use the old system.  And good for them

        • PhilipII

          That may be so however with every new generation the old system is alien and even sounds obsolete. In Britain all the motorways now have km signs posted at intervals of 500 metres plus signs for lorry weights are in tonnes and height and width signs are now in metres. “Oz” and “lb” are still in use but it depends on age as now all cooking programmes use solely grammes, kilos, ml and litres. There is nothing wrong in people using old units, this is quite normal e.g. in Spain they still use cuncas, ferrados, fanegas, varas, atahúllas etc… even though the official units are metric. I think you may not realise that if you want to sell your product abroad you have to use the international system. I am happy that you are proud to be North American (American, being anyone from the continent of America) but using passé units has nothing to do with it. I suspect you may be of a certain age, like my father, who was  educated in old units which are no longer used in Britain.

          • richbatra

            Well your suspicion is wrong as I Am 25.  As I indicated, most people in the UK and all in England measure their height in feet, inches, and weight in punds (stones in England) and I suspect it will always be so..at least in the US

          • PhilipII

            Hello again. What I am saying is that even though for commercial transactions shops changed to weighing by the kilo 15 years ago you obviously get people asking for 2 pounds but getting a kilo but every new generation will be accustomed to the new system and employ it with more ease. I can assure you that as a teacher the sole system taught at school in Britain is S.I., since the late 1960s and you do now hear people starting to use kilos and stone, which is quite natural during a transitional period of those generations having been used to different systems. I hope that I have clarified the situation over here for you.

          • richbatra

            i see…here, too, the schools teach the metric system exclusively but once people leave high school, nobody uses it (excspt In Scientific Applications)….I suppose it will always be so.  Regards

          • PhilipII

            The difference being that here in Britain we do use ºC, litres, kilos, tonnes,  m² (for carpets, flooring etc…) and hectares, unlike in the U.S. therefore current and future generations feel and will feel at ease.

          • richbatra

            even so, i don’t think the imperial, or US system will ever be completely erradicated.  Obviously never in the US, but I Would Say never in many countries either.  All my Canadian friends casually measure in Feet, inches, lbs., Farenheight, Etc., even though their government tries to force them to do otherwise.   And I Know of nobody in any country that measures tire size, or TV size in anything other than inches.  LOL, if Mcdonalds ever changed the name of the Quarter Pounder, i don’t Know what it would be called…..LOL

  • Dominion_Lad

    Just stumbled onto this site, and I cannot believe how obtuse most of of American commenters are.

    1) The US does *not* use Imperial measure.  That was adopted for the British Empire in 1824.  America was long gone from the Empire by then.  The US in fact uses what is called the “Queen Ann” measure, which became the “US Customary Units” following the Revolution.  I live in Canada, and our (real Imperial) gallon is 20% larger than the US gallon.  Also, my pint has 20 ounces, not 16.  My gallon has 160 ounces, not 128.  Understand the difference?

    2) Australia and New Zealand were able to totally convert to metric in the 1970s.  Is the US afraid to convert?  Canada converted sector by sector, beginning in 1975.  Unfortunately, we elected a Conservative government in 1984 as we were changing grocery store scales.  Most did convert, but one can buy meat, etc by pound or kilo.  Labelling is dual, or metric only.  Most scales are metric.  Our weather went metric in 1975, driving in 1977 and gasoline sales in 1979.

    3) Everyone’s worried about changing road signs.  Believe me, it can be done.  It’s called an “overlay”, and Canada was able to do it.  As old signs wear out, new signs replace the “overlay” signs.  It’s not rocket science, people.

    4) Americans are simply not creatures of change.  That, plus the wacky religious Right in your country will scream 666 and start ranting about Revelations at the mere mention of metric.

    I feel quite comfortable travelling.  I use and understand metric.  Before metric, I had to convert between Canadian and US gallons when I crossed your border.  Now I just have to convert to metric, though I know that because of US low taxes, I generally save 20 cents/litre on every fill-up in the US.

    Try joining the world.  Conversion isn’t that difficult.  We’ll have to put up with your silly spelling  (what’s a “liter”?).  Most of your industries converted decades ago.  Heck, even US cars have been built to metric standards since the 1980s.

    I blame it all on Reagan.  Everything in the US was moving towards metric (remember the brown signs on your Interstates, giving metric distances?).  Reagan, playing to the antediluvian Right, put a halt to metric. 

  • tcinnz

    American living in NZ here:  In practice it’s very easy to switch to the metric system when you need to do so.  It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it.  I’d guess that Kiwis going to America find the switch more difficult.

  • Leonhard Verse

    “It took me a few weeks to get the hang of it.” This.

  • Felipe Robles Perales

    Yes but gradually generations are using naturally kilos etc… It is just a natural process as with decimal currency.

Christine Garvin makes an admission: she doesn't know how to deal with death.
Matthew Lynch travels to far western Mongolia to check out an ancient hunting tradition.
Reflecting on the meaning of revolutionary tourism after a visit to a Zapatista community...
The BP oil spill has devastated a region and hypothetically cost us all ice cream...
The national parks are bracing themselves for the busiest summer in the history of the...
During the season of the dead, Christine Garvin uses ritual to try and understand a bit...
Blanca loves Chester like a son, and accordingly, me like a daughter in-law. American...
Natalie Grant just made your resolution-making decisions easier.
I spent the whole week preparing emotionally, financially, and even gastronomically.
If we don't open ourselves up, how can we expect to grow?
Does purporting to protect traditions actually put them at greater risk?
MatadorU student Hope Nardini sidesteps Quito's backpacker ghetto to check out the rest...